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European Studies and Research in Adult Learning and Education  

Oriol Rios-Gonzalez

The European Commission launched a renewed agenda for adult learning with the objective of ensuring access to high-quality educational opportunities to adult learners for the promotion of their personal and professional development. Thus, European researchers in this field are paying attention to lifelong learning actions in order to address this challenge. Studies in this area are exploring how adult education can strengthen adults’ skills, in particular those required in the current knowledge society (information and communication technologies, problem solving, foreign languages, etc.). Simultaneously, some investigations focus in depth on the role that adult education can play in overcoming social exclusion for the most underserved groups. This paper describes the contributions of these investigations as well as the steps carried out by programs and theories that have contributed the most to adult learning. Lastly, future developments and challenges on this field are explained.

Article

Risky Truth-Making in Qualitative Inquiry  

Aaron M. Kuntz

Conventional approaches to qualitative research seek to distill and capture meaning through a sequence of determined, progressive methodological steps that serve to synthesize difference toward a series of overarching claims regarding human experience. This approach reifies contemporary neoliberal values and, as a consequence, short-circuits any possibility for progressive social change. Through conventional research practices, the principles of security, schizoid, and statistical society accelerate, extending normalizing processes of governmentality, and producing a docile citizenry adverse to key elements of an engaged democracy. In such circumstance, risk is identified as the production of findings that are ambiguously defined, not attending to values of certainty and generalizable outcomes. As a consequence, conventional methodological practices fail to engage the postmodern condition—fragmented experiences with inconclusive outcomes are displaced by methodologies bent on merging difference into foreclosed meaning. Contrary to conventional approaches to research, post-foundational orientations emphasize relational logics that maintain difference within the inquiry project itself. A provocative example of this extends from newly materialist approaches to qualitative inquiry that emphasizes the productive possibilities inherent in difference and, as such, displace the simplified dialectical reasoning of conventional approaches in favor of more dialogic recognition of diffractive patterning. In this sense, open-ended difference makes possible previously unrecognized (even unthought) possibilities for being otherwise. As such, newly materialist approaches to inquiry manifest alternative ontological and epistemological practices that are not available to the conventional methodologist; they make possible an open-ended vision of the future that is necessary for radical democratic action. Furthermore, the fluid nature of such methodologies align well with Foucault’s explication of parrhesia, a means of truth-making that creates new possibilities for becoming otherwise. The intersection of newly materialist methodologies with parrhesia challenges methodologists to risk the very relations that secure their expertise, establishing a moral challenge to the impact of past practice on the possibilities inherent in the future.

Article

Longitudinal Study of Teachers  

Clive Beck, Clare Kosnik, and Elizabeth Rosales

The longitudinal study of teachers gives a time perspective on the life and work of teachers, instead of just a snapshot at a particular point. The time period in question may be just a few intense months, as in some ethnographic research, or several decades, as in some life-history research. Longitudinal research is useful in exploring such topics as how teachers change and grow over their careers, changes in teachers’ professional satisfaction over the years, patterns of teacher retention and drop-out, the impact of teachers on their students over time, and the influence of preservice and/or in-service teacher education on teachers. Continuous study of the same teachers over many years is challenging and accordingly not common. It is typically expensive and time-consuming, and extends beyond the time span of most research funding; moreover, many participants either leave the profession or move to other locations, making it difficult to keep in touch with them. Accordingly, additional ways to do longitudinal research need to be found: for example, studying teachers intensively for a shorter period; asking teachers to recall earlier phases in their life and/or career; or studying different cohorts of teachers at various career points (as in the classic Huberman study and parts of the U.K. VITAE research). Each of these methods has limitations but maintains the valuable outcome of providing a time perspective. Where it can be arranged, however, interviewing the same teachers at intervals over several years has the advantage of enabling researchers to get to know the participants well. As a result, the researchers are in a better position to understand what the participants are saying in the interviews, and assess the veracity of their self-reporting about their views and practices, past and present. Also, a degree of trust is established such that the teachers are more likely to be frank about their feelings, challenges, and concerns. But one danger of the emerging relationship is that the support the relationship it provides may positively impact the teachers’ experience (e.g., helping them fine-tune their practice and maintain their morale to an unusually high level). This limitation has to be weighed against the advantages in deciding whether or not to use this approach to the longitudinal study of teachers.

Article

Autoethnography  

Susanne Gannon

Autoethnography is an increasingly popular form of postpositivist narrative inquiry that has recently begun to appear in educational contexts. The multiple lineages of autoethnography include the insider accounts of early anthropologists, literary approaches to life history and autobiography, responses to the ontological/epistemological challenges of postmodern philosophies, feminist and postcolonial insistence on including narratives of the marginalized, performance and communication scholarship, and the interest in personal stories of contemporary therapeutic and trauma cultures. Approaches vary widely from fragmented, experimental, performative, and multimodal texts through to realist tales. Advocates claim that autoethnography enables us to live more reflective, more meaningful, and more just lives.

Article

Approaches to Handling Common Response Styles and Issues in Educational Surveys  

Chester Chun Seng Kam and Xitao Fan

Survey has been a widely used data collection method for a variety of purposes in educational research. Although response styles have the potential to contaminate survey results, educational researchers often do little to control for such negative effects. Under discussion are five common response issues, their impact on survey data, and the methods that may be used to minimize the negative impact of these response issues on survey data. The five response issues in question are acquiescence (including disacquiescence), careless responding, extreme response, social desirability, and item-keying effect. Acquiescence (disacquiescence) refers to a respondent’s general tendency to agree (or disagree) with an item regardless of its content. This response style can distort item and construct correlations, compromising the results of factor analytic and correlational findings. Careless responding refers to a respondent’s tendency to pay insufficient attention to item content before responding, which can also lead to a biased estimation of relationships. Extreme response refers to the tendency of selecting extreme response options (e.g., strongly agree or strongly disagree) over middle options (e.g., neutral). Social desirability refers to a respondent’s tendency to rate him- or herself in an overly positive light. Finally, item-keying effect refers to a respondent’s differential responses to regular-keyed and reverse-keyed items. This effect often creates the illusion that items with opposite keying directions measure distinct constructs even when they may not. A growing amount of research has been done on how to control for the negative impact of these response styles, although the research may be limited and uneven for different response issues. A variety of approaches and methods exist for handling these response issues in research practice. Different response issues may require considerations at different stages of research. For example, effective handling of acquiescence response may require steps in both survey construction (e.g., including a hidden measure of acquiescence) and survey data analytic treatment (partial correlation technique), while controlling for item-keying effect may require more sophisticated modeling techniques (e.g., multitrait-multimethod confirmatory factor analysis).

Article

Authentic Assessment  

Kim H. Koh

Authentic tasks replicate real-world challenges and standards of performance that experts or professionals typically face in the field. The term “authentic assessment” was first coined by Grant Wiggins in K‒12 educational contexts. Authentic assessment is an effective measure of intellectual achievement or ability because it requires students to demonstrate their deep understanding, higher-order thinking, and complex problem solving through the performance of exemplary tasks. Hence authentic assessment can serve as a powerful tool for assessing students’ 21st-century competencies in the context of global educational reforms. The review begins with a detailed explanation of the concept of authentic assessment. There is a substantial body of literature focusing on the definitions of authentic assessment. However, only those that are original and relevant to educational contexts are included.. Some of the criteria for authentic assessment defined by the authors overlap with each other, but their definitions are consistent. A comparison of authentic assessment and conventional assessment reveals that different purposes are served, as evidenced by the nature of the assessment and item response format. Examples of both types of assessments are included. Three major themes are examined within authentic assessment research in educational contexts: authentic assessment in educational or school reforms, teacher professional learning and development in authentic assessment, and authentic assessment as tools or methods used in a variety of subjects or disciplines in K‒12 schooling and in higher education institutions. Among these three themes, most studies were focused on the role of authentic assessment in educational or school reforms. Future research should focus on building teachers’ capacity in authentic assessment and assessment for learning through a critical inquiry approach in school-based professional learning communities or in teacher education programs. To enable the power of authentic assessment to unfold in the classrooms of the 21st century, it is essential that teachers are not only assessment literate but also competent in designing and using authentic assessments to support student learning and mastery of the 21st-century competencies.

Article

Action Research in Teacher Education  

Thomas Ryan

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article. Herein the term Action Research is addressed by reflecting upon two words, action and research, united within this century to create something quite useful and commonplace. The word research, which has a long and traceable evolution, has been linked to seeking and to action, which is certainly the opposite of inaction. Upon closer examination, it is the action that can be either covert or overt, since thinking can be an action. When used together Action Research presents an opportunity to seek, pursue, and track one’s actions to arrive at a target. Yet how a person decides to seek provides context. Regardless of the path taken, Action Research involves certain steps, such as reflection, that are focused, strategic, and seeking within a social context to move forward. Action Research is malleable, flexible, and therefore can be many things depending upon how the terms are demarcated. However, herein Action Research is both a strategy and orderly process that supports those who may seek to examine, to change, and/or to improve. Action Research is a commitment and an approach from within that provides a structure that can simplify and guide an inquiry. Action Research (AR) can meet the needs of the individual or a group as it supports self-inquiry and group-inquiry equally, while unfolding in a series of steps and phases. The action step may include either cognitive and/or psycho-motor acts; the reflection step includes efforts to look back and within, whereas the third step, revision, demands that an action researcher plan for their next step. This AR process may include additional steps; however, AR remains cyclical and recursive and at times piecemeal as steps may overlap, accelerate, and challenge the action researcher over time, since theory and practice can be quite disparate.